WOW Air Cuts Chicago Flights

Filed Under: WOW Air

Man oh man, WOW Air is just slowly withering away.

WOW Air has been on the verge of collapse for a while. At the beginning of November it looked like Icelandair would acquire WOW Air, though that deal ended up falling through.

Now it looks like WOW Air may have just found a new investor, though that still hasn’t been finalized.

In the meantime, WOW Air continues to cut their route network at an almost unprecedented rate.

WOW Air’s route cuts so far

Recently WOW Air announced significant cuts to their US route network, as they were canceling flights to Cincinnati, Cleveland, and St. Louis, just months after launching them. On top of that the airline has canceled flights to Dallas Fort Worth and New York JFK.

Then a couple of weeks ago WOW Air quietly added further US route cuts:

  • WOW Air will discontinue 3x weekly flights to Pittsburgh as of January 11, 2019
  • WOW Air was originally supposed to operate 3x weekly flights to Orlando between December 2018 and April 2019; now the airline will just operate flights from December 18, 2018, through January 8, 2019, and from April 1 through April 30, 2019
  • WOW Air will reduce frequencies to Los Angeles to once weekly in January 2019, and will discontinue the flight completely between January 28 and April 2, 2019

WOW Air’s next cut: Chicago

While there is no official announcement from WOW Air, all flights between Chicago and Iceland show as “sold out” between January 21 and March 31, 2019, which sure suggests that the route is being temporarily paused, at a minimum.

I wouldn’t even be optimistic that the route will resume after that. That’s because WOW Air doesn’t even have reasonable pricing for travel starting in April, but rather is only selling their most expensive fares. This is often a sign that an airline is in the process of cutting a route.

With the Chicago route being cut, this means WOW Air’s year-round route network to the US now includes daily flights to Baltimore, Boston, and Newark, and 4x weekly flights to Detroit.

From over a dozen US destinations to just four is pretty rough.

How many more routes can WOW Air lose?

Some might say “well it’s smart for WOW Air to cut routes in winter, since Iceland and the transatlantic leisure market are seasonal.” While that’s true:

  • Airlines don’t have the ability to easily adjust capacity the same way other businesses do, so for an airline to be profitable they need to be able to operate in some markets year-round (or at least make an absolute killing in one season, which WOW Air has failed to do)
  • WOW Air’s business model only works if their route network is scaled, given that they’re all about connecting people between the US and Europe, and this requires the route network to be balanced; the business model simply doesn’t work if you have four destinations in the US and a dozen destinations in Europe, as you won’t have even feed

Bottom line

Unfortunately these WOW Air cuts are probably necessary given their financial situation. The airline has already returned four planes to their leasing companies.

At this point I simply wouldn’t book a ticket on WOW Air because I’d be scared they’d cancel the route. They’re canceling routes altogether with just a few weeks notice, which is awful if you’re someone who is planning a trip around these flights.

(Tip of the hat to airberlin2017)

  1. It´s such a shame. WOW flying into all these 2nd grade Midwest places did magic to the fares that legacy carriers would charge you to Europe. As far as I am concerned WOW could do a lot better, even though I´d never fly with them.

  2. @John – Your comment pretty much sums up the problem. Great fares but for whatever the reason people aren’t buying them. I shop fares too but there is a floor to the level of service I’m willing to accept. WOW’s service offering falls below that level.

  3. csr has insolvency protection so we can book the flight without worrying right?
    does csr just refund the cost or they will rebook us onto another flight

  4. Lucky have you ever noticed on Aeroplan’s website under manage profile, towards the bottom there is a donation section called “one mile at a time” where you can sign up to automatically donate 2% of all miles earned in the future??

    Had never heard about that… interesting

  5. Hey Ben. If I have a flight booked in Jan does that mean it’s cancelled? When I try to look for availability on the Wow air website it seems to show that it’s “sold out or no flight”

  6. I have a flight booked in Feb – return Keflavik to Chicago. And a connect flight from London. I guess I am toast now… Always knew this may happen. Booking 1 year in advance. I guess no compensation if they cancel now only refund if they don’t go bust before issuing it.

  7. My mother is booked on this flight in early Feb. Any suggestions on what we should do? Contact the airline? Or maybe start making an alternate plan?

  8. @Lucky

    Wow Air just laid off 111 staff, fleet to be reduced to 11 single aisle planes, cutting all A 330 destinations by January 2019

  9. We flew wow from STL to Ryk to London in September and it was a great experience! So sad to read of their decline. It was lovely to have flights to Europe from Stl once again.

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